9 February 2022
Cambridge GaN Devices launches project to develop reliable GaN power ICs for data centers
Fabless semiconductor company Cambridge GaN Devices Ltd (CGD) – which was spun out of the University of Cambridge Department of Engineering’s Electrical Power and Energy Conversion group in 2016 to develop power semiconductors using gallium nitride (GaN)-on-silicon substrates – has launched ICeData, a project funded by the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, aiming to develop and commercialize a highly efficient GaN-based integrated circuit for use in data-center server power supplies.
The primary goal of the ICeData project is to deliver GaN power IC technology to boost the efficiency of data-center server power supplies to more than 98%. Specifically tailored for switched-mode power supplies (SMPS) for data centers and telecommunication servers, ICeData should contribute to the saving of more than 8 megatons (million metric-tons) of CO2 emissions annually in 2030.
Data centers currently account for about 2% of the world’s energy use, with an annual electricity consumption rate of 400TWh in 2018 set to double by the end of the decade. In power electronics applications (such as power supplies for consumer electronics and servers for data centers), GaN has the potential to massively reduce the energy wasted due to its structural and conductive properties.
The combination of higher efficiency and higher power density can also achieve significant savings on the capital expenditure (CapEx) and operating expenditure (OpEx) of data centers, potentially reducing investment and running costs by up to 10%, it is reckoned. Featuring the proprietary ICeGaN gate technology developed by CGD (which enables simple driving of the GaN transistor without using a specialized GaN driver), the ICeData product will be a market first, it is claimed.
It will also have smart features for sensing and protection to enhance reliability, without the need for extra components. The on-chip sensing and protection circuits can react in nanoseconds to over-current and over-temperature events, protecting the device and ultimately protecting the power system.
By the project’s end, CGD should have a qualified and production-ready set of GaN power IC solutions. The overall GaN market is forecasted to grow from a few million dollars currently to more than $1.1bn by 2026, driven by demand for lighter and more efficient power supplies and more compact and powerful on-board chargers for electric vehicles (EV) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs). CGD’s first product line featuring ICeGaN technology will be released in first-half 2022.
“Exponential growth in demand for data storage and processing, accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic where cloud-based connectivity became an essential tool for businesses around the world, is resulting in huge increases in data-center energy usage. This is a serious concern when 2% of the world’s energy usage is already consumed by data centers and this is only set to rise,” comments CEO & founder Dr Giorgia Longobardi. “Cambridge GaN Device’s ICeData project addresses solutions that are lighter, more compact, significantly more efficient and potentially cheaper than those based on silicon. Developing green technologies that deliver real reductions in CO2 emissions and create greater energy efficiency is vital if we are to meet low-carbon targets on the path to net zero,” she adds.
“The ICeData project is a great opportunity to complement CGD’s efforts towards energy efficiency and to boost the development of highly reliable, extremely easy-to-use GaN-based solutions for key markets such as servers, telecommunications and other high-power segments,” says Andrea Bricconi, VP of business development. “Innovation relies on developing great GaN material, design and on outstanding packaging solutions: ICeData is a strategic initiative that will enhance CGD’s portfolio even further, always targeting sustainability and reducing our impact on the environment.”